Day 2,906 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
We would leave if we could
Welcome to another weekly entry from the adventures of Once Upon A Saga. This week has been packed! And here are some of the more interesting aspects of what happened.
Last week’s entry: Hiking, bureaucracy, work, heat, ghost nets, teeth and cake (from Hong Kong)
It should be apparent to anyone that I do not want to be in Hong Kong. If I could go to any of the remaining nine countries then I would. And this has nothing to do with Hong Kong itself because I rather like Hong Kong and so do most who live here. Hong Kong is an excellent part of our ever-spinning planet and a place which is full of opportunities. But at this point I still have not worked out how we can leave? I really felt like we came close to boarding a ship to Palau. And there is still a chance that it might happen. However, a few days ago the situation changed again. Until recently I would have been able to board a vessel to Palau and quarantine for two weeks at a hotel. But as of a few days ago I will not be allowed to enter Palau unless everyone on the vessel has been vaccinated. That is a really tall order!! Seafarers have historically been down prioritized throughout the pandemic. The problematic is of course that the small pacific paradise island nation of Palau has probably never received a visitor who arrived by containership. Most of everyone arrives to the remote islands by airplane. And outside of the pandemic you might see a few sailboats or yachts arrive. Mariana Express Lines, which is a subsidiary of Pacific International Lines (PIL), services Palau bi-weekly (every two weeks). Throughout the pandemic seafarers have not been permitted to leave the ships unless under controlled circumstances during crew change. And even that has been hard. Palau is 2,734km (1,699mi) from Hong Kong as the crow flies. And crows do not fly that far.
A photo I once took while onboard one of PIL's vessels.
In light of the news regarding the new regulations making it even harder to reach Palau I had a pretty dark evening. This is something we have been working on for several months now. As most would know by now, logic and reason doesn’t always apply within COVID-19 regulations or the pandemic for that sake. Seafarers must test negative before entering a vessel and they are often some of the most isolated people as they cannot leave the vessels. The voyage to Palau would take approximately fourteen days calling several ports along the way. Being vaccinated and all it is highly unlikely that I would bring COVID-19 to Palau. And as I would be quarantining at a hotel for an additional fourteen days it seems impossible. But I have no power of the situation. If a country imposes regulations, then I must abide. I’m no Nicole Kidman. In case you didn’t know already, Nicole Kidman flew into Hong Kong recently and was not required to quarantine like everyone else. Proof that there is always a way to circumnavigate rules if you have the right contacts. The common phrase “it is impossible” often does not apply if you are well connected and advantageable positioned. Unfortunately, I do not seem to be in this case. And as such I once again had some very dark thoughts and couldn’t help to think about how easy it would be to abandon it all and fly home. But once again…I didn’t.
Jesper showing Jakob his kingdom.
My friend Jessi arrived to Hong Kong earlier this year as she took a job at Marriot Hotels. We first met in Oman when that precious country became number 150 back in 2018, of the abstract list of all 203. I really don’t care to debate how many countries there are in the world. Most people have a hard time defining what a country is to begin with. 193…206…who cares? I do however like to sow doubt in the minds of people who think they know the right number of countries ;) Anyway, I’ve been seeing a lot of Jessi lately and she was also the one who connected me with Harry Chan, Hong Kong’s famous “ghost net hunter”. For his work, Harry has been awarded the Hong Kong Medal of Honour. Jessi and Harry invited both me and Thomas of the Andersen Clan to join in on a beach clean-up for the World Clean-up Day 2021, which was last Saturday. I might add that there is very little I spend my time on these days which doesn’t serve a purpose for enriching Once Upon A Saga or pushing us forward to the next country. That being said, cleaning up a beach is never a bad thing and I would recommend all of you to get out there and clean up a beach, a park, a nature trail, a neighborhood or anyplace which needs it. It’s a pretty big job to clean up the mess we have created and no one person can manage it. Harry has done a superb job over the past nine years but mostly because the ripple effects of his actions and less so for all the waste he has pulled out of the ocean.
Left: Chief Thomas of the Andersen Clan
Righ: Harry Chan the "ghost net hunter"
Front: Jessi Chai - master networker
Cutting, pulling and ripping a stinky old ghost net out from the rocks together with Theo (blue t-shirt).
Catch of the day - too much!
Did you know that you can speculate in parking tickets here in Hong Kong? There aren’t many cars in Hong Kong compared to the size of the population. But there are certainly more than enough. And parking spaces often fill up quickly. On the day of the beach clean-up, I arrived at 08:30am for the 09:30am clean-up at Shek O Beach. But it was already too late. Several cars were already circling the completely full parking lot. I found a spot which wasn’t a legal parking spot and decided to park there. I knew that a parking fine would run me HKD 320 (USD 41). In some cases, you can get two parking fines on the same day but that would be unlikely. So, I figured that I would park for free in a best case scenario and for HKD 320 if I got a fine. Meanwhile Thomas (king of the mountain and chief of the Andersen Clan) also arrived to late but chose to park at a different parking lot further away. The cost for Thomas was HKD 50 per hour. We were there for seven hours so Thomas had to pay HKD 350 while I only paid HKD 320. There you go.
Perish in your jocks Thomas! :)
There has truly been a lot of work lately. Much within my role as an assistant at the Danish Seamen’s Church and much within the Saga. Saga-wise I got scheduled for two interviews and a speaking engagement just within a day! I also write articles, I help teachers by making short videos, I do research, create content, I network, pay bills, update systems, various collaborations, and naturally work on the logistics and bureaucracy of moving forward. Within the Seamen’s Church there are the ships, the online shop, cleaning, social media and just recently we flew in our beloved substitute Port Chaplain Margith Pedersen. The Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong Kong does not have a reverend/chaplain but is hoping to find one before the end of the year. I myself am not even the slightest religious but I’m ready to defend anyone who is. Reverend Margith has been here before and it is good to have her back. I picked her up at her quarantine hotel at 00:30am last Tuesday. She will be organizing several church services and preparing for the annual Christmas Bazar. Yeah, there’s been plenty on my plate lately. Especially as we seem to have developed a reputation as a place where ships can get things done. There’s also a Danish Seamen’s Church in Singapore but they are unable to go onboard the ships due to COVID-19 regulations. So perhaps we are in a unique position to service ships here in Hong Kong. It has kept me busy. Often I do not have a clue where to get the items the ships sometimes want. But there is other stuff too. Simple but time-consuming tasks. Like converting coins into notes. As it just so happens there’s a “coin bus” which you can visit and deliver all of your coins. They then give you notes or add the money to a card. Nice and easy once I found the bus.
Temporary Port Chaplain Margith Pedersen from Thy, Denmark.
The "coin bus". I quickly ramp up a lot of coins. In this case more than 300! So happy to enjoy this service.
Do you like spicy food? My friend Thomas (the chief of the Andersen Clan) he often tells me that I have a problem as I keep challenging and pushing myself. Well, he might be on to something but this is more about an experience. “The Hong Kong Hot Wings Experience!” Some friends and I were inspired by “Hot Ones” from “First we feast”. So we tried to acquire ten hot sauces which gradually increase in heat. “First we feast” and “Hot Ones” couldn’t help us. “Sold out”, “no delivery to Hong Kong” etc…but there is very little you cannot find in Hong Kong. So we reached out locally to Fiyah Heat Store and they put these ten hot sauces together for us. “SHU” is the Scoville Heat Unit. A way of measuring how hot a sauce or pepper is. Regular Tabasco Sauce ranks at 3,750 SHU. The 10th sauce we will be trying is called “Rise or Die” and tics in at 3 million SHU!!! A ghost pepper is around 1 million SHU. The Carolina Reaper is about 1.6 million SHU. This should be interesting. We’ll be about 10-12 people and it all takes place on October 8th.
Our ten hot sauces ;)
The Mid-Autumn festival was celebrated just a few days ago and followed by a day off. I should probably have sought out the celebrations and experienced what used to be the only “official” day of the year where children are allowed to play with fire. But apparently to much stuff caught on fire and burned down so the practice was made illegal. I had absolutely no time to spare and sat in front of my laptop working until late at night and my day started early the next morning. First with a hike together with Jesper and Jakob during the morning and later on picking up items for a ship. During the evening I met up with Jessi and a few of her friends (Dave from Australia and Vivian from Hong Kong). Vivian is married to a Palauan so we thought it might help in some way. They were both really nice and the four of us had a lovely evening eating Italian food and chatting away. But getting back to the Mid-Autumn festival it is all about lunar appreciation and Moon watching. Mooncakes are regarded as a delicacy and are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second-most important holiday after Chinese New Year with a history dating back over 3,000 years, when the Emperor of China worshipped the moon for bountiful harvests.
中秋節快樂.That’s ‘Happy Mid-Autumn Festival’ in Cantonese (I think?). And this photo I took is a fancy box containing 8 moon cakes.
And that’s pretty much as far as this entry goes. We passed the 600 day marker for time spent in Hong Kong during the pandemic. It seems so unfair that 8,000 km (5,000 mi) away from here in Denmark, the pandemic is over and life is back to normal. Meanwhile I just heard USA’s president Joe Biden say that they will donate 500,000,000 vaccines to lower income countries. That was great news. But then they said they expect to have them rolled out around this time next year!! My goodness?!? Think about how many variants of the virus we already have and then picture how many new variants we will have by this time next year? Africa and Asia are way behind in getting vaccinated. Africa alone, with its fifty-four countries, is around 1.3 billion beating hearts which have mostly not been vaccinated. You can’t even imagine how many variants could develop! I now feel like I could be stranded in Hong Kong forever. There should be a gold medal for persistence!! I would certainly be a candidate. While I’m trying to make the best of things, and Hong Kong is the place to do just that, it remains incredibly stressful and frustrating to be locked into something without knowing when it might end?! Not just the pandemic. Not just when we can leave Hong Kong. More so when we will reach the final country and the Saga will end. It was supposed to take less than four years. It has now taken nearly eight.
Port of Hong Kong. MTL terminal 1.
Well, we can’t very well end the entry there, can we? So, in a far more positive light I can always rely on good friends, good contacts, good collaborations and solid project partners. My friend Poul signed me up for a wine tasting event last night. He couldn’t participate himself as he and his lovely wife Amy are still quarantined from their return to Hong Kong. But I got to go and wine is always helpful – except when its not. But it was last night. And I was once more invited to join a “Hong Kong Super Fan” event through the Hong Kong Tourism Board aka “Discover Hong Kong” which had me starring at an extraordinarily happy art installation in West Kowloon Cultural District called: “FriendsWithYou”. And I am feeling the now long-term support of solid project partners such as Ross DK & GEOOP. Besides, I had a noodle soup the other day and found myself eating a slice of cooked pig intestine! I saved the other piece for a photo for you. Because I was just sure you would love to see a slice of cooked pig intestine :)
A quick lunch at a local restaurant chain.
I ate one of these. Turns out it's not for me. Pork intestine.
"Peanut Butter" from the "FriendsWithYou" exhibition.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - VERY tired of meaningless regulations!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga
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